RESULTS: K-3rd Grade Repeaters

Retentions (or repeating a grade) in grades K through 3 are costly to the state. Each retention adds one extra year of schooling to a child’s education, which is funded by local, state, and federal sources that for the last 10 years, have averaged over $11,000 per child per year.

Children from low income families tend to be retained at higher rates than those from families of greater economic means. However, this difference is mitigated when children leave kindergarten with strong literacy skills. In Virginia, regardless of economic circumstances, less than 1% of children who finish kindergarten and meet PALS-K screening benchmarks are retained, compared to 28% of children who do not meet PALS-K benchmarks.52 Further, preschool attendance supports children’s development of strong early literacy skills. Children who attend Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) programs are less likely to repeat kindergarten and have a better chance of meeting or exceeding minimum competencies on the PALS-K assessment.53 Minority children – who are more likely to live in poverty – and children with disabilities have been shown to gain the most from VPI participation through first grade, despite the fact that these children are more likely to attend schools with higher concentrations of poverty.54

Researchers debate the impact of retention for students. In general, research suggests that retention in the lower grades is often associated with limited benefit and potentially negative consequences.55 In a literature review that identified 11 empirical studies evaluating the impact of retention on children in kindergarten and first-grade, reviewers concluded that “the majority of research shows that, contrary to popular belief, retention during kindergarten or 1st grade usually fails to improve academic performance and often has negative effects on student achievement in the long run.”

Number and Percentage of Kindergarten Class Not Promoted On-time to Third Grade, Virginia, 2005-2013

SOURCE: Virginia Department of Education.

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